Wilderness Backpacking Gear List: 38 Things To Carry In Your Backpack

several backpack leaning on a wooden houseDo you love the outdoors? Are you planning to go Hiking, Camping, or on a wilderness excursion?

If so, you will want to take a few minutes and read this article about what you should prepare to take in your backpack with you before you go out into the Great Outdoors.

With spring here and the weather clearing many people want to get away a enjoy being outdoors and see nature and get away for some relaxation and decompress from the stress of life and work. But, before you go you may want to think about what you will need. Obviously, the first thing you will need to have a good quality backpack – see the table below for some of the best backpacks.

Still need to buy a backpack? These are our favorites.

PictureNamePriceOur Rating
Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack$$$$4.7
Osprey Mens Aether 70 Backpack$$$$$4.8
Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 Backpack$$$$4.8
Kelty Red Cloud 90 Internal Frame Backpack$$$$$4.6
High Sierra Hawk 40 Frame Pack Pacific/Altitude$$4.5
Black Giant Top Load Canvas Duffle Bag$4.4
High Sierra Hawk 45 Frame Pack Pacific/Nebula$$4.4
Mozone 40L Lightweight Travel Backpack$4.3
Osprey Porter Travel Backpack Bag$$$4.9
Osprey Women's Ariel 65 Backpack$$$$$4.6
PictureNamePriceOur Rating

Have you given any thought to what you should have in the backpack? There are no 7-11s in the Rockies or in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, or even while walking along the 6,800-mile length of the American Discovery Trail.

You should have in your pack things that not only to make your trip safe but also some basic things you may not have thought of. Here is a basic list of backpack gear you should think about taking along with you when you venture out on your Great Adventure into the outdoors or to your local forest preserve for an afternoon walk in the sun. Here are 38-suggestions on a backpacking gear list that you can use to get ready:

  1. Knife. When you go out in to anywhere the pavement ends you should always have a good knife. It is the basic tool that separates man from beast and it has a 1001 uses. You might consider a bush knife or machete if you are going camp or hike into areas of heavy undergrowth and tall grass. I still have a Vietnam era bush knife and it still cuts away brush and clears a campsite.
  2. Shovel. A potable shovel is useful in digging fire pits latrines and then filling them in.
  3. Axe or Saw. A small axe or wire saw is useful for cutting firewood
  4. Flashlight. A good flashlight is always useful tool to have. The old boy scout version, the green Army, or grey Navy waterproof ones can be found at many Army/Navy surplus stores. Try to get the one with interchangeable filters and spare bulb. Spare bulbs store either in the tube of the flash light  or those and an extra set of batteries should be carried as well sealed in a waterproof Ziploc bag
  5. Water Container. Water is a high on the list of essential items. The average human requires 2-4 liters of water each day for drinking. More is needed in dryer climes or desert. Some backpacks have built in water bladders.
  6. Water Test Kit. A portable water test kit. Because unfortunately that clear running stream or still pond might not be as clean as you would like.
  7. Water purification tablets. Dysentery or Montezuma’s revenge is no joke. This is especially true if you plan to hike outside the CONUS (Continental United States) or travel in Third World countries.
  8. Compass. A good compass is your best friend. Get a lensatic compass with dayglow or glow in the dark numbers. The Army puts out a good orienteering manual that is available on This eBook will teach you the basics of land navigation. You can get hardcopy books on Amazon.
  9. GPS. A GPS unit is great. But remember tech works inversely proportionally to how close you are to the store you bought it at. Pack spare batteries.
  10. Maps. Water proof maps of the area. Water and ranger stations should be marked. Before you go into the outback check with the local people in the area and find out  where water can be found.
  11. Laser Pointer. Optionally a heavy duty laser pointer can be used to highlight landmarks or terrain features to make it easier to navigate in twilight. Mine is 500mw and it also doubles as a signaling tool.
  12. Signal Mirror. A metal signal mirror very useful if you are lost or hurt. Again the Army Navy store is a good source.
  13. Rain Poncho. A quality rain poncho is great to have when it starts to rain. It can also do double duty as a shelter. They can fold small and are lightweight.
  14. Tent. A small lightweight one-person shelter. The new Pop up ones like they use on Everest are perfect. Space age carbon fiber gives strength and makes it lightweight.
  15. Ground Cover. A poly ground cloth is good to use to cover the ground where you out up your shelter.
  16. Sunscreen or Sunblock. Getting sunburnt is no fun and the long-term damage to your skin can cause skin cancers.
  17. Hat. A Buff Hat is a great all-purpose protection that can combines with your regular headgear. It forms 10 different pieces of clothing.
  18. First Aid Kit A Good First aid kit with first a aid manual. You should also get take a Red Cross First Aid course. It can save your life or some else’s. Here is one of our favorites.
  19. Snake Bite Kit. A snakebite kit is a good addition if you are going places where snakes are prevalent. Rule of thumb wear knee high boots over sport shoes. It costs less than $20 and it is a must have in your backpack.
  20. Bug Repellent. Insect repellent and mosquito netting if you are going where biting bugs live.
  21. A firearm. Personally, in my experience any animals you will meet, most often avoid you. There are those who disagree. The more dangerous ones I feel you shouldn’t be near unless you are licensed to carry heavier weapons. However, a revolver loaded with snake rounds is useful in southwest.

If you feel you must carry a survival weapon. The venerable AR-7 .22 cal. Survival rifle that fits into its composite stock and is lightweight is a perfect choice.

A better choice is the Wrist Rocket as ammunition is always available. If you are a purist, carry and learn how to use a Sling. This age-old weapon can still scare away most wild animals you might meet. Many a wolf has fallen to a shepherd’s sling.

Fire, like the knife, is one of the most basic of tools used by man. You can use many ways to start a fire:

  1. A lighter, Flint and steel (don’t ever use stainless steel knives with their flint in the sheath you see in stores. Stainless does not produce sparks when striking flint).
  2. Magnifying lens.
  3. Matches in a waterproof container.
  4. Fire bow or drill. Two sticks (this takes work and patience).
  5. Fire Piston. A unique tool the fire piston is one of my favorites it is virtually inexhaustible and it works even when wet. To learn more, click here.
  6. Hammock. A hammock is nice to have and with the new materials they are lightweight and they even sport built in sleeping bags or mosquito netting. The Mosquito Free Hammock Bliss is our favorite.
  7. Toilet Paper.
  8. Garbage bags. Take out what you bring in.
  9. Ziploc bags. For waterproofing items and for bringing back treasures you might find.
  10. Extra Socks. Extra Socks waterproofed in either a Ziploc or a Seal-a-meal bag, or one of those vacuum storage system bags.
  11. Extra Change of Clothes. Cold and wet is no way to survive.
  12. Extra shoes laces. Laces break and badly fitting shoes can lame you and that has unpleasant consequences in the woods, desert or mountains.
  13. Flares. Signal flares either pen or flare gun. If you get lost it can help to you.
  14. Radio. Radio transceiver tuned to the Ranger or emergency freqs . This Emergency AM/FM/WB(NOAA) Radio w/ LED Flashlight and Cell Phone Charger will charge your cell phone and let you tune in to the radio, and is both solar and wind up powered.
  15. Rope. Nylon Rope and cord again 1001 uses.
  16. Stove. A Ninja camp stove or any of a plethora of portable and folding stoves.
  17. Sleeping bag. A good quality sleeping bag with hood.

Remember: You should always let someone know exactly where you will be going. Be sure to check in with the rangers in the national park – because if something happens to you, you want to make it easy for people to find you.

You might think 38 items on this list is a lot to carry. However, if you look at the load out that is standard for the US military or Special Forces you will see is a fraction of what they have to carry.

You should be able to get all the items listed in this article, as they are all easily available to you. You will of course have to use your best judgment in how much you take with you.

Hopefully will not need many of the items on the list in this article. They were put on this list after 30 years of experience in going out in the field and the thousands of man years that many other people wiser than you or I have learned the hard way, Uncle Murphy loves the outdoors as much as you and if it can go wrong it will.

If your are curious as to what our guys in uniform use to carry all of their stuff you might want to look at:

CFP-90 backpack System – available from Amazon.

MOLLE: Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. This Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is a great way to get started.

You don’t have to go to that extreme of course and there are many lightweight and modern backpack systems out there for you to choose from. Whichever backpack you choose get the best you can afford. The outdoors is the best place to be year round for fun, relaxation and adventure. But, please make it a safe experience as well.

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